Hebron, Sansana, South Hebron Hills, Tarqumiya, Wed 27.8.08, Morning
06:10am. On the Israeli side, many workers waiting for their transport vehicles. On the Palestinian side, there are workers in the checking lane and a few workers waiting ahead of the carousel, before checking lane. Measured passage time: 10 minutes per worker, more or less. Workers keep arriving, no complaints – "all's well at the checkpoint" they say. In the parking lot, one busload of prisoners’ families is already waiting – it is still early, and their inspection will not begin before 7am, when all workers are gone. On our way, we see three more buses. In all, four buses will pass today.
No military vehicles on the road. No vehicles at all. Children walking to school along the side lane. Part of the blockages we had believed were removed – are now back.
Dura el Faur: Pillbox is manned. Traffic flows.
The Sheep Junction: Pedestrian pathway was blocked with barbed wire and a grey gate – pillbox is manned and the traffic flows.
From Bnei Naim: Heavy flow of children toward schools.
Hebron-affiliated: No army; we arrived after school opening time, and there are no pedestrians, very few taxis.
Humanitarian pathway: pillbox is manned – traffic flows.
Halhul-Hebron Bridge: pillbox manned; traffic flows. A novelty, and much for the better: another entrance to Hebron has opened!! Where previously there was a grey gate, just in front of the pillbox, a bit after the Beit Khachil Bridge. Soldiers from the Duchifat Brigade guard the entry. This pathway is for lorries only – according to the drivers, this is a great relief. And indeed, many lorries pass there without stopping at all. This opening is now two-weeks old.
Tarqumiya-Idna: pillbox is manned – traffic flows.
Tarqumiya: in order to relieve pressure on the Hebron Coordination and Communication Admin. [CCA], a new office was set up here a month ago, providing the same services as the Hebron CCA, serving the west Hebron Hill area populace: Tarqumiya, Idna, Beit Abba. It’s a pity that the Palestinians still don't take full advantage of it. People on the Palestinian side say that all's well at the crossing and workers pass quickly and efficiently. No complaints.
Immediately as we pass through the yellow gate of Kiryat Arba – under the Giveat Ha'avot neighbourhood – what was previously an illegal settlement (ma'achaz) is now the "Hazon David" synagogue, with a full minyan. We are walking to Give'at Harsina, where we arrive at 7:10am – Hebron seems more deserted than usual. Only the early risers – groups of children walking to school. Little sweeties, from whom the morning's odor still flows, having a very long walk to school. The soldiers guarding the Mishmar Hagvul (Border Police) base "Ashmoret Yitzhak" don't harass the children. On the base's wall, a new graffiti: "Welcome to Mishmar Hagvul Hevron."
Me’arat Hamakhpela checkpoints: No detainees and still quiet.
Tarpat Checkpoint: Golani soldiers have really cleaned up, the "Death to the Arabs" graffiti as well, and a worker walks around, cleaning. The Kordoba school teachers and children pass through with no trouble, school bags are hardly checked.
Tel Rumeida checkpoint: No detainees, and the soldiers there haven’t given anyone a hard time nor harassment. David, a peace-activist, tells us that yesterday they had indeed delayed the children there. We ask the TIF policemen to make sure they are always there at 07:30 – this might help to prevent the Mishmar Hagvul policemen from harassing the Kordoba school children. Later, we are told that Rim, the school's headmistress had requested the same. We'll see about tomorrow – today, there were no problems.
The Pharmacy checkpoint: Children pass through with no problems but we notice a very large military convoy. Turns out that Udi – the Hebron Brigadier – is visiting, and we await the end of his visit in order to talk to him. Two events unfold as we wait: 1. Ofer Ohana is on holiday, but he has a replacement – a settler arrives at the checkpoint in his car and starts talking to us – he doesn't get out of the car, nor does he attack. We pursue our normal policy of ignoring – he is not as offensive and irritating as Ofer is, so that this attack is easier, he tires of our irresponsiveness and leaves. 2. The soldiers awaiting the brigadier talk to a first grade child, headed to school. They are kind to him – but his body language discloses terrible fear. We remark on this to the soldiers; they laugh at me, but get the point.
Talk with brigadier:
- Settlers’ violence: soldiers received orders to respond immediately to any disturbance on the settlers' part – and not to await the arrival of policemen. Soldiers often do not follow these orders because of the inevitable affinity between them and the settlers. A stray soldier or two may find it difficult to respond.
- The violence of settlers in the South Hebron Hill area: a troop of the Lavi Brigade moved into a second camp in order to try to prevent the violence there. He believes that when the extensive school holiday is over, violence will subside.
- Palestinian Presence on Shuohada St.: no comment
- Patrols and presence in Hebron: regarding our own presence – soldiers will protect us from the settlers; other excursions must be pre-coordinated with the police.
- Ramadan: they are in direct contact with the Palestinian Waqf. the Palestinians will have more days, because Ramadan does not coincide with the Jewish holidays.
- Hebron CCA: (Brigadier) talks of consistent attempts to relieve pressure on CCA, and of coordination with the Palestinian CAA. The Palestinians prefer the Israeli CAA as it is free of charge, while the Palestinian CAA charges a fee. A branch of the Hebron CAA is being set up at Tarkumiah.
- Direct contact with brigadier: Via his spokeswoman who sits in the room adjacent to his and is constantly by his side.
- Accompanying the Children from Umm Tuba to Hirbat Tawanni: accompaniment will continue.
Unrelated to any question, the Brigadier complains of the incitement of peace activists and tells us that today's visit is an attempt to improve the image of inner-Hebron blockages. As of next week, works improving their appearance will commence (God forbid: he never thought of removing those blockages).Within Hebron, a new neighborhood was "established" – the "Hebron Heroes" neighborhood – in the territory in-between Kiryat Arba and the prayers route. Between 40-50 settlers from the "noar hagevaot" sleep there every night. They run around, moving between "Beit Hameriva" and the area below, and throwing stones – last night, they smashed glasses onto the house neighboring that of Basem's, from the local grocery store – he takes us around to see the sights. We arrive at the family house – TIF policemen are already there, filing the complaint and the landlord has already filed a complaint with the Hebron Police. Issah from Betzelem has already taken photos… everyone knows, everyone does nothing. At the "Meriva House" – soldiers protect these outlaws as usual and the lives of the Palestinians are unwarranted for.